Viewpoint: Put down your gadgets and have a real conversation for once

By Holly Renner

Dear old-fashioned, outdated, face-to-face communication: We are no longer in need of your service, but thanks anyways – we have Facebook.

Cell phones, social media sites and computers – to name a few – seem to be replacing authentic, face-to-face communication. I remember the days where sitting at the dinner table each night consisted of conversational replies other than, “Oh, sorry mom, what? I didn’t hear you, I was texting my friends back,” or, “Hold that thought while I post how much fun we’re having on Instagram.”

I would be lying if I said technological advances were void of all benefits, but I feel like we’re losing touch of genuine, face-to-face relationships because of the massive amounts of media presented on a silver platter before of us. Many of us are guilty of spending countless hours on Facebook, approving friend requests from people we met one time but may never see again, or pretending we’re texting because we don’t want to strike up a conversation with the stranger next to us.

And then of course, there’s the typical texting driver going 80 on the highway, the oblivious pedestrian who texts and dodges cars simultaneously, the person sending work emails in the church pew, and the diligent students counting how many “likes” they got on their recently updated Facebook status while the professor is lecturing.

And to top it all off, there is a YouTube video of a man who took out his phone at the altar, changed his relationship status from “engaged” to “married,” and posted a tweet about his recent wedding vows. Call me old-fashioned, but I think our society is becoming desensitized to the controlling grip technology has on us.

Then – oh yes, there’s more – the world of online dating pops up. The world that says it’s okay to create any profile you’d like in order to vamp up your reputation in hopes of landing a date; the world that says getting to know someone in person can be put on the back burner while an online relationship forms instead. Despite the success stories that stem from online dating, I feel apprehension as I question the authenticity of communication that is solely transferred through computer screens.

What happens when people put down their iPhones, turn off their computers, ignore their emails, and just sit down – across from each other – ready to engage in conversation? I can tell you.

Body language is assessed, words are heard loud and clear, thoughts are stimulated, eye contact is made, respect is shown, and all of a sudden, the sense of reality is present. Fingers are released from the keys, eyes are lifted from the phones, and dialogue is created face-to-face; thus, nurturing a more genuine relationship.

I would often wonder why so many families in less developed countries seemed so happy. In the midst of turmoil and bondage, a sense of freedom seemed to be in existence. When I would see pictures of children playing in the dirt, mothers making food from scraps on the ground, and families lifting up their hands in worship, I felt a glimpse of their reality. And then it dawned on me – all they have is each other. Distractions from technological advances are non-existent. Instead, those distractions are replaced with quality time and face-to-face communication on a daily basis.

But back in our world, Twitter teaches us to limit our precious thoughts to 140 characters, Instagram allows people to see what’s happening in other people’s lives without ever being there, and Facebook reminds us when our beloved friends’ birthdays are – and let’s face it, we all know a relationship or two has been saved because of that handy-dandy sidebar notification.

I will end this by saying in the midst of writing this column, I have checked my Facebook multiple times, texted multiple people, and have thought about posting an Instagram or two. Are any of us brave enough to live unattached to technology, or are we too blinded by our own addiction to it?

Holly Renner is a senior journalism major from Orlando. She is a reporter at the Baylor Lariat.